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Prosecutorial Misconduct Claims Properly Brought as Post-Conviction Motion if Timely

Tennessee state prisoner Darrell Wentzel filed a pro se motion for review of his convictions after they were affirmed on direct appeal. His 2001 "motion for extraordinary relief" was treated as a post-conviction petition, and dismissed as statutorily time barred. The dismissal was affirmed on appeal.

Wentzel’s 1996 convictions for aggravated burglary, robbery and kidnapping resulted in a 12 year sentence in the Tennessee Department of Corrections. After his direct appeal was unsuccessful and the Tenn. Supreme Court denied review in 1999, he filed the 2001 motion. Wentzel claimed that prosecutorial misconduct related to the alleged withholding of evidence in his case had violated his right to a fair trial. The court ruled his motion was a time barred post-conviction petition, and he appealed.

The Court of Criminal Appeals at Nashville held that claims of prosecutorial misconduct were “precisely in the nature of what is properly addressed in a post-conviction petition.” The Court found, however, that Wentzel was attempting to circumvent the one year statute of limitations on post-conviction relief, and that the trial court had properly dismissed his motion. “Labeling his motion [as] other than a post-conviction relief petition does not change the nature of the relief sought,” the appellate court ruled. See: Wentzel v. State of Tennessee, Case No. M2002 00799 CCA R3 PC (Tenn. Crim. App., 2003); 2003 WL 1233823.

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Related legal case

Wentzel v. State of Tennessee